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Eileen Joyce (piano)
The Complete Studio Recordings
rec. 1933-1958
Mono, except Grieg concerto (CD 10) stereo
ELOQUENCE 482 6291 [10 CDs: 762:20]

Pianophiles will warmly embrace and find much to enjoy in this 10 CD set of the complete studio recordings of the Australian pianist Eileen Joyce (1908-1991). It's the first time such a comprehensive collection has been compiled. Her recorded legacy has been unjustly neglected over the years, save for single CDs from labels such as Dutton, Testament and Pearl. Only APR have seriously championed her cause with a 5-CD set: ‘The Complete Parlophone and Columbia Solo Recordings 1933-1945’, issued in 2011 (review). Needless to say, all of those recordings are to be found in this new Eloquence edition.

Joyce hailed from Zeehan, Tasmania, but the family relocated to Boulder in Western Australia when she was only three. Not long after, Percy Grainger talent spotted her, declaring: "I have heard Eileen Joyce play and have no hesitation in saying that she is in every way the most transcendentally gifted young piano student I have heard in the last twenty-five years. Her playing has that melt of tone, that elasticity of expression that is, I find, typical of young Australian talents, and is so rare elsewhere". From 1927-1929 she studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Max von Pauer and Robert Teichmüller. From there it was on to the RCM in London for lessons with Tobias Matthay, in addition to a few from Adelina de Lara. In 1930 she made her BBC Proms debut under the baton of Sir Henry Wood. With her glamorous looks and elegant couture she went on to carve out a successful concert career from the 1930s until 1960 when she retired. Thereafter, she gave only the occasional performance. Her last was on 29 November 1981 when she appeared with Geoffrey Parsons at a fund-raising concert at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In March 1991 she fell and fractured her hip and died four days later. Her ashes are interred at St Peter's Anglican Church, Limpsfield, next to Sir Thomas Beecham.

Having listened to the set over the past couple of weeks, I'm immediately struck by the pianist's wide-ranging repertoire. She was certainly no specialist. Added to that, she possessed a formidable technique, hand in glove with an artful musicianship. Her discography can be divided into five periods: Parlophone, Columbia, Decca, HMV and Saga. It all began in 1933 when, as an unknown pianist, she decided to kick start her career with a self-funded recording. The piece she chose was Liszt's concert study 'La leggiereza'. Parlophone, who cut the disc, were so impressed they refused to charge and paid her instead, requesting a 'side two'. Joyce offered Paul de Schlözer's Etude in A flat, Op.1 No.2, a fiendish show-stopper, where a luscious melody is set against cascading semiquaver runs. The results of this initial foray into the world of recording were such a success, that Joyce was invited back to Parlophone just four months later. Her recording career had been launched.

The Parlophone Years span from 1933 until 1940. It was a fruitful time when seventy works were set down, all solo plus the Arensky Trio. This prolific catalogue of recordings constitutes 60% of the Joyce discography. There are too many recordings to comment on individually, so I will highlight those which drew my attention significantly. The Bach Fantasia and Fugue in A minor which opens CD 1 has a noble Fantasia, with a Fugue, although rapidly paced, impressively detailed and delineated. Brisk tempo is a compelling feature of the Paradies Toccata also, but it works well. Mozart's A major Rondo, K386, with orchestral backing, is suffused with Viennese elegance and charm. Chopin is represented by a dazzling Fantasie Impromptu, and thankfully she doesn't over-gild the lily in the romantic middle section. The Berceuse is a gentle lullaby, where sensitive pedalling achieves a pearl-like sonority with rich pastel shades. Sadly, Schumann's Stücklein 1 (No. 1 of Bunte Blätter, Op. 99) lacks the poetry and fluidity of Clara Haskil. The Gounod/Liszt Faust Waltz, here abridged, captures some of the magic I find in Cherkassky's recording. Brahms’ Intermezzo Op. 117 no. 2 is beautifully expressed and not overly-romanticized. Joyce has a real affinity with Grieg's piano music and we are treated to six of the Lyric Pieces. Butterfly captures the insect's delicacy and mercurial temperament, with Brooklet crisply articulated. Sibelius' Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9 is too frenetic in the middle section; it's such a wonderful piece I suppose it's easy to get carried away - Leif Ove Andsnes doesn't on his recent recording. The Rachmaninov Prelude selection and Shostakovich Fantastic dances find the ideal interpreter in Joyce, who delivers idiomatic readings with plenty of personality. In the Arensky D minor Trio, Op. 32, the pianist joins forces with Henri Temianka on violin and Antoni Sala on cello. The players savour the soaring lyricism of the music, investing passion, power and energy when required. One of the finest versions I've heard.

In 1940, most probably at the instigation of Walter Legge, Joyce moved to Columbia, the more prestigious arm of the EMI group, where she remained throughout the duration of the war. Although her output during these years was slimmer due to the restrictions placed by world events, larger scaled works were now the order of the day. Haydn's ubiquitous "Gypsy Rondo" Trio is a sheer delight, fully capturing the humour and light-heartedness of the score. The pianist’s refined and symmetrical approach to the two Mozart Piano Sonatas (nos. 12 and 17) is immensely appealing. In 1942, Joyce made the first ever recording of John Ireland's Piano Concerto. It's a beautiful work, thoroughly neglected. The performance here traces the languid and introspective qualities of the music. Apparently, there’s also a live airing from the 1949 Proms with Sir Adrian Boult, which I haven't heard to compare. Also with the Hallé Orchestra under Leslie Heward, Joyce was the first to record Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1, a work she championed. It's played with brilliant intensity and generous helpings of satire in the finale.

Enticements of recording major works lured Joyce to Decca after the war. She kicked off with Bliss' Baraza, a rarity I've never heard before. Backed by orchestra it employs a men's chorus. I can't say I like it. What I do like, however, is the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 with the LSO and Grzegorz Fitelberg. It was never issued at the time, and here receives its premiere outing. Transferred from shellac copies it sounds perfectly acceptable. Joyce overcomes the technical difficulties of the work with consummate ease. It's full of positive optimism and, despite Siloti's brutal vandalism in the second movement, it's another recording of the work I can add to my list of favourites. The Rachmaninov Second I found over-indulged. There's much to admire in Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The opening movement is invigorating. There follows a contrasting slow movement to soothe the senses before a dazzling firework display in the finale. Of the solo items I would single out Beethoven's Pathétique. It’s as good as any you'll find, leaving one to regret that she didn't record more of the composer's sonatas and, indeed, any of the concertos.

Eileen Joyce's foray into the early music revival in the early 1950s resulted in a two-day excursion into the HMV studios in June 1956. The results were successful and three concertos by Bach and Vivaldi were taped. Her fellow harpsichordists were George Malcolm and Thurston Dart. These are effervescent readings refreshingly unaffected. It's just a pity that the recording balance plunges the keyboards into the shadows for most of the time.

In 1958 Joyce returned to the studios for a final time, under the watchful eye of William Barrington-Coupe, of Joyce Hatto fame. The label was Saga, and two records emerged, one of encore pieces, the other the Grieg Piano Concerto. The Schumann/Liszt Widmung is exquisitely narrated, whilst Gnomenreigen sparkles with pristine delicacy and elfin charm. In Un sospiro, the melody is ardently etched against a lightly-textured arpeggiated accompaniment. I was very impressed by the sound quality of the Grieg Concerto, the only recording of the set in stereo. John Frandsen, a name new to me, is a very sympathetic and sensitive conductor, and there's a tangible rapport between himself and the soloist, securing the performance's success.

The accompanying documentation, in the form of a 57 page booklet, is the icing on the cake. In addition to a comprehensive track-listing with recording dates, it includes a personal reminiscence from Bryce Morrison, a biography of the artist by David Tunley and Victoria Rogers and a detailed discussion of the recordings by the set's producer Cyrus Meher-Homji. In addition, the liner sports an array of fascinating photos, with some fine colour reproductions of original LP covers. The recordings, spanning twenty-five years from 1933-1958 have scrubbed up well, and sound fresh and vibrant in expert restorations and remasterings by Mark Obert-Thorn and Chris Bernauer.

All in all, this superb collection will grace any historical piano recordings collection.

Stephen Greenbank

Complete contents:

CD 1 [78:22]
The Parlophone Recordings
1 J.S. BACH Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 944
2 PARADIES Toccata in A major (from Sonata No. 6)
3 MOZART Rondo in A major, KV 386
Orchestra conducted by Clarence Raybould
4–5 MOZART Suite, KV 399 (excerpts)
6–8 MOZART Piano Sonata in C major, KV 545
9 SCHUBERT Andante in A major, D.604
10 SCHUBERT Impromptu in E flat major, D.899 No. 2
11 SCHUBERT Impromptu in A flat major, D.899 No. 4
12 CHOPIN Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2
13 CHOPIN Nocturne in B major, Op. 32 No. 1
14 CHOPIN Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66
15 CHOPIN Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
16 SCHUMANN Novelette in D major, Op. 21 No. 2
17 SCHUMANN Novelette in A major, Op. 21 No. 6
18 SCHUMANN Stücklein 1 (No. 1 of Bunte Blätter, Op. 99)

CD 2 [76:27]
The Parlophone Recordings (continued)
1 LISZT Liebesträume No. 3, S.541 No. 3
2 LISZT Waldesrauschen (Étude de Concert, S.145 No. 1)
3 LISZT Valse oubliée No. 1, S.215 No. 1
4 LISZT Au bord d’une source, S.160 No. 4 (Années de pèlerinage I: Suisse)
5 LISZT La leggierezza (Étude de concert, S.144 No. 2)
6 LISZT Gnomenreigen (Étude de concert, S.145 No. 2)
7 J.S. BACH (arr. LISZT) Organ Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 / S.462 No. 1
8 SCHUMANN (arr. LISZT) Widmung, S.566
9 SCHUMANN (arr. LISZT) Frühlingsnacht, S.568
10 WAGNER (arr. LISZT) Spinning Chorus, S.440 (Der fliegende Holländer)
11 GOUNOD (arr. LISZT) Faust Waltz, S.407 (abridged)
12 BRAHMS Romance in F major, Op. 118 No. 5
13 BRAHMS Intermezzo in C major, Op. 119 No. 3
14 BRAHMS Capriccio in D minor, Op. 116 No. 7
15 BRAHMS Intermezzo in A major, Op. 76 No. 6

CD 3 [76:28]
The Parlophone Recordings (continued)
1 HUMMEL Rondo favori in E flat major, Op. 11
2 HENSELT Si oiseau j’étais (Were I a Bird) (Douze Études caractéristiques, Op. 2 No. 6)
3 SCHLÖZER Étude in A flat major, Op. 1 No. 2
4 MOSZKOWSKI Waltz in E major, Op. 34 No. 1
5 MOSZKOWSKI Caprice espagnole, Op. 37 (abridged)
6 ALBÉNIZ (arr. GODOWSKY) Tango in D major (No. 2 of España, Op. 165)
7 GRANADOS The Maiden and the Nightingale (from Goyescas)
8 SINDING Rustle of Spring, Op. 32 No. 3
9 GRIEG Scherzo-Impromptu (No. 2 of Moods, Op. 73)
10 GRIEG Butterfly (No. 1 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 43)
11 GRIEG Melody (No. 3 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 47)
12 GRIEG Solitary Traveller (No. 2 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 43)
13 GRIEG Brooklet (No. 4 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 62)
14 GRIEG To the Spring (No. 6 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 43)
15 GRIEG Summer’s Eve (No. 2 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 71)
16 SIBELIUS Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9
17 STAVENHAGEN Menuetto scherzando, Op. 5 No. 3
18 PALMGREN En route, Op. 9
19 FRIEDMAN (after EDUARD GÄRTNER) Viennese Dance No. 2
20 FAURÉ Impromptu No. 2 in F minor, Op. 31
21 DEBUSSY Reflets dans l’eau (No. 1 of Images, Book I)
22 DEBUSSY Toccata (No. 3 of Pour le piano)
23 TURINA Rapsodia Sinfónica, Op. 66
Orchestra conducted by Clarence Raybould

CD 4 [74:36]
The Parlophone Recordings (continued)
1–4 ARENSKY Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 32
Henri Temianka, violin · Antoni Sala, cello
5 RACHMANINOV Prelude in G minor, Op. 23 No. 5
6 RACHMANINOV Prelude in E flat major, Op. 23 No. 6
7 RACHMANINOV Prelude in C minor, Op. 23 No. 7
8 RACHMANINOV Prelude in A flat major, Op. 23 No. 8
9 RACHMANINOV Prelude in A minor, Op. 32 No. 8
10 RACHMANINOV Prelude in D flat major, Op. 32 No. 13
11 D’ALBERT Scherzo in F sharp major, Op. 16 No. 2
12 R. STRAUSS (arr. GIESEKING) Ständchen, Op. 17 No. 2
13 DOHNÁNYI Rhapsody in C major, Op. 11 No. 3
14 BERGMAN Polka Caprice, Op. 1 No. 3
15 BERGMAN Himmelgesang, Op. 2 No. 1
16 SCOTT Lotus Land, Op. 47 No. 1
17 SCOTT Danse nègre, Op. 58 No. 5
18 PICK-MANGIAGALLI Le Danse d’Olaf (Deux Lunaires, Op. 33 No. 2)
19 FARJEON Tarantella
20 SHOSTAKOVICH Three Fantastic Dances, Op. 5

CD 5 [75:15]
The Columbia Recordings
1–3 HAYDN Piano Trio No. 39 in G major, Hob.XV.25
Henry Holst, violin · Anthony Pini, cello
4–6 MOZART Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major, KV 332
7–9 MOZART Piano Sonata No. 17 in D major, KV 576
10 MOZART Romance in A flat major, KV Anh.205 (attribution)
11 MOZART Gigue in G major, KV 574
12 MOZART Minuet in D major, KV 355
13 BEETHOVEN Bagatelle in C major, Op. 33 No. 2
14 BEETHOVEN Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 ‘Für Elise’
15 CHOPIN Étude in E major, Op. 10 No. 3
16 CHOPIN Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
17 CHOPIN Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47

CD 6 [74:42]
The Columbia Recordings (continued)
1 MENDELSSOHN Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14
2 GRIEG Ballade in G minor, Op. 24
3 SCRIABIN Prelude in E major, Op. 11 No. 9
4 SCRIABIN Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 11 No. 10
5 RAVEL Jeux d’eau
6–8 IRELAND Piano Concerto in E flat major
Hallé Orchestra / Leslie Heward
9–12 SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35
Arthur Lockwood, trumpet · Hallé Orchestra / Leslie Heward

CD 7 [75:54]
The Decca Recordings
1–3 MOZART Piano Sonata No. 7 in C major, KV 309
4–6 BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 ‘Pathétique’
7 BEETHOVEN Bagatelle in E flat major, Op. 33 No. 1
8 SCHUMANN Papillons, Op. 2
9 CHOPIN Waltz in B minor, Op. 69 No. 2
10 CHOPIN Waltz in E minor, Op. posth.*
11 FRANCK Variations symphoniques
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra / Charles Munch

CD 8 [76:23]
The Decca Recordings (continued)
1–3 TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op. 44 (ed. Siloti)*
London Philharmonic Orchestra / Grzegorz Fitelberg
4–6 RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
London Philharmonic Orchestra / Erich Leinsdorf
7 RACHMANINOV Humoresque in G major, Op. 10 No. 5
8 BLISS Baraza (from Men of Two Worlds)
National Symphony Orchestra and men’s chorus / Muir Mathieson

CD 9 [75:47]
The Decca Recordings (continued)
1–3 MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25
Eileen Joyce, piano · London Symphony Orchestra / Anatole Fistoulari
The HMV Recordings
4–6 J.S. BACH Concerto for Three Harpsichords in C major, BWV 1064
Eileen Joyce, George Malcolm, Thurston Dart, harpsichords
Denis Vaughan, continuo · Pro Arte Orchestra / Boris Ord
7–9 VIVALDI (arr. BACH) Concerto for Four Harpsichords in A minor, BWV 1065
Eileen Joyce, George Malcolm, Thurston Dart, Denis Vaughan, harpsichords
Pro Arte Orchestra / Boris Ord
10–13 VIVALDI (arr. DART) Concerto for Four Harpsichords in D minor
Eileen Joyce, George Malcolm, Thurston Dart, Denis Vaughan, harpsichords
Pro Arte Orchestra / Boris Ord
14 MALCOLM Variations on a theme of Mozart for Four Harpsichords
Eileen Joyce, George Malcolm, Thurston Dart, Denis Vaughan, harpsichords
The Saga Recordings
15 BEETHOVEN Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 ‘Für Elise’
16 SCHUMANN Romance in F sharp major, Op. 28 No. 2
17 SCHUMANN (arr. LISZT) Widmung, S.566

CD 10 [78:26]
The Saga Recordings (continued)
1 LISZT Gnomenreigen (Étude de concert, S.145 No. 2)
2 LISZT Un sospiro (Étude de concert, S.144 No. 3)
3 FAURÉ Impromptu No. 2 in F minor, Op. 31
4 DEBUSSY Clair de lune (from Suite Bergamasque)
5 DEBUSSY La Cathédrale engloutie (Préludes, Book I No. 10)
6 GRANADOS The Maiden and the Nightingale (from Goyescas)
7 GRANADOS Allegro di concierto
8 DOHNÁNYI Rhapsody in C major, Op. 11 No. 1
9 GRIEG Notturno (No. 4 Lyric Pieces, Op. 54)
10 GRIEG Melody (No. 3 of Lyric Pieces, Op. 47)
11–13 GRIEG Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Royal Danish Orchestra / John Frandsen
Eileen Joyce, piano
STEREO: CD10: 11–13

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